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Poland fines Russia’s Gazprom to please US: Moscow

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A road sign directs traffic towards the Nord Stream 2 gas line landfall facility entrance in Lubmin, Germany, September 10, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Russia has denounced Poland’s “unprecedented” move in imposing a hefty fine on the country’s energy giant Gazprom, describing Warsaw’s decision as a move to please the United States, which is upset over the firm’s construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would take Russia’s gas to Germany.

Poland’s anti-monopoly watchdog UOKiK ordered Gazprom to pay some $7.61 billion for building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which it says would dominate the Polish market.

The project, which plans to connect Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea, would bypass Poland and Ukraine.

This has concerned Warsaw and Washington, who believe the pipeline would increase Europe's reliance on Russian energy supplies and that Moscow could later use the project for exerting political pressure.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Poland’s decision to fine Gazprom was driven by an intention to “implement the idea of setting up a gas hub for re-sale of American gas to eastern European countries,” in order “to please Washington.”

He also said the fine undermined European energy security.

Gazprom vows to appeal against ruling

In a reaction to the fine, Gazprom said it has not violated Polish anti-monopoly regulations, vowing to appeal the "unprecedented" ruling.

“The UOKiK ruling breaches the principles of legality, proportionality and just trial, while the unprecedented size of the fine is a testament to the desire to oppose the Nord Stream 2 project’s implementation by any means,” Gazprom said.

The Polish regulator office, however, said it rejected any attempts to discredit the decision.

“The procedure was carried out in a meticulous and thorough manner...We operate fully independently, on the basis of the law and within the law, ensuring fair competition,” the Polish regulator office said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters.

It claimed that the decision was “based on evidence confirming that the entrepreneurs deliberately violated the anti-monopoly law applicable in Poland.”

German energy firm, Uniper, which provides half of the funding for Nord Stream 2, also disagreed with the fine order, saying it was considering an appeal.

A final ruling, according to Uniper, could take up to four to five years and any fines would only be payable then.

Tomasz Chrostny, president of the UOKiK said previously that the launch of the pipeline “will threaten the continuity of natural gas supplies to Poland.”

Construction work on the pipeline, however, stopped in December after pipe-laying company Swiss-Dutch Allseas suspended operations under US sanctions. 

Late last year, US President Donald Trump signed off sanctions against companies involved in the pipeline construction.

Russian denounced the measures against the project, saying Washington has been using the sanction threat as a tool to pressure all the companies engaged in the construction of gas pipelines from Russia to Europe.  

Russia has two projects to send natural gas to Europe, namely the Nord Steam 2, which will send Russian natural gas to Germany, and the Turk Stream 2 pipeline, which will supply Western Europe with energy.

The Turk Stream 2 will carry gas through Bulgaria.

The US has threatened both projects with sanctions, as Trump’s administration seeks to curb the Kremlin’s purported economic leverage over Europe and Turkey.

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